Western Brown junior excited about opportunity to compete abroad –
By Wade Linville –
Since her days of junior high, Western Brown junior Sophia Leto has excelled as a distance runner.
Over the past two years as a freshman and sophomore, Leto has earned Southern Buckeye Athletic/Academic American Division First Team honors in both cross country and track, and as she prepares for her junior season of cross country this coming fall she has earned the opportunity to compete in two of the most exciting races thus far in her running career.
On June 27, Leto will be leaving for Australia to represent the Down Under Sports’ USA Team in the 20th annual Down Under Cross Country Meet. While in Australia, Leto will compete in the Gold Coast 5.7K Challenge and the All-American 5K Meet.
“It’s the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me,” said Leto. “It’s amazing! I never thought I would be going.”
Leto received a letter in October of 2016 just before competing in the high school district cross country meet inviting her to compete in the Australia races that start at the end of June and end in the first week of July. After competing in the Down Under Sports Cross Country Meet, some members of the USA Team will travel to Hawaii for some non-racing fun.
To cover the cost of the trip, Leto has sold candles her aunt makes and has worked in landscaping when not running to prepare for the upcoming races and the fall cross country season.
Long-time Western Brown cross country coach Jim Neu was proud to see one of his exceptional student/athletes get to the opportunity to represent, not only her school district, but the entire USA in such a popular event.
“We couldn’t find a better representative,” said Neu. “She exemplifies everything good (in a student/athlete)…academics, personality, talent, and leadership.”
Leto has also been an OHSAA Division II Regional Tournament qualifier during her high school running career and has been named as the Western Brown’s MVP in cross country and track over the past two years, according to her mother, Michelle Leto.
According to her cross country coaches, Leto is very deserving of the opportunity to represent Team USA.
“She’s been a great competitor at Western Brown since junior high, and going on to represent Team USA seems like a natural progression,” said Western Brown track and field coach Chad Sexton.
“I’m very proud of her, and she deserves an experience like this because she’s such a hard worker,” said Western Brown track and field coach Bri Houchens.
During her trip to Australia, Leto plans to go snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef when not competing in races.
“I’m excited,” said Leto.
For young athletes who hope to follow in her footsteps, Leto said the main thing is “don’t give up.”